Okay, so I know a lot of my reviews tend to begin with a direct comparison to another game, but hear me out on this one. Avenger Bird is like if someone took the game Flappy Bird and retrofitted it into being a 2D platformer. Whilst, to my knowledge, the game is in no way connected to the once insanely popular phone app, it does feel very derivative of its design, both visually and to an extent, mechanically. (I can’t believe I just used the word Derivative when talking about Flappy Bird)
Avenger Bird, put simply is a 2D platformer, in which the goal is to collect all the coins in a level and then exit through the door that opens up once you have the goods. Simple in nature, easy to understand. Within each level is also a red gem, usually hidden off the beaten path within a treasure chest somewhere. Whilst I admittedly get a kick out of venturing off the main path for an extra collectable in most games, here it fell extremely flat.
This is due to the levels themselves. Whilst I admittedly played 6, maybe 7 of them, each from different parts of the map, I can say one thing with certainty. These levels are not good. Objectively, they suffer from poor design. Partly to blame are the controls for the Bird that you play as. With the B button, you can do a little hop, holding it down longer will allow you to “fly”, whilst the A button can be held down in mid-air to “glide”. Problem being, neither of these functions really work as intended, because each of these abilities is tied to its own ability bar that runs out incredibly quick.
This results in the controls feeling incredibly sloppy, with a lot of what should be simple exercises in platforming turning into embarrassing displays of waiting for a bar to recharge, getting back into position and trying again. I found gliding toward ledges to be a complete gamble, with 50% of the time, my character mantling the edge and climbing over and the other 50% of the time falling into a pit or onto an enemy and dying in a single hit.
Interestingly, playing the game with a Switch Pro Controller (a natural choice for any 2D platformer, thanks to its D-Pad which the joy-con are noticeably lacking) was a complete ordeal in and of itself. This game DOES NOT SUPPORT A D-PAD. At all. One of the most jarring decisions made for a retro aesthetic, 2D indie game I’ve ever seen. In fact, this game has no control options whatsoever. The only thing you can change is whether or not the HD rumble is turned on. (Turn it off, trust me you’ll get sick of every jump vibrating the controller by stage 2)
Thankfully the majority of the levels I played were short, simple romps from left to right. Each level would have its own jumps and enemy placements, but beyond collecting coins and looking for a door, that was it. Nothing else to see or do. To the game’s credit, short levels work incredibly well with the handheld nature of the Nintendo Switch… it’s just that usually they’re supposed to be fun and engaging to the player. The lacking design really rears it’s ugly head when you get to one of the bigger levels. I believe the third level I played had 99 collectables to pick up, in a huge, spread out level that was littered with enemies. This felt like someone had just designed the stage at random with a few preset level pieces that repeated 3 or 4 times as the stage went on.
Whilst this review may be sounding incredibly negative, this comes from a place of love. Upon a glance of the game’s art style, one would expect another title like Shovel Knight or The Messenger, not necessarily to the same level of quality, but at least something in its vicinity. I was genuinely excited to try Avenger Bird, but within minutes the game had given me more excuses to put it down than to keep on playing.
Perhaps this game would be enjoyed more by a younger person, or someone looking for something incredibly simple as an introduction to 2D platformers. Even then, the Switch itself has hundreds of better candidates at this point than Avenger Bird.
*Code kindly provided by the publisher for review*